The Reunion Sessions
‘Let’s Hear It For Scotland’
Back in the 1930s era the leading London dance orchestras of Lew Stone, Ambrose, Sidney Lipton and others acted as a magnet attracting the crème de la crème of Scottish musicians to their ranks.
The establishment of the Number One, Royal Air Force Dance Orchestra at the outset of hostilities included Scottish musicians forming the mainstay of what turned out to be the most celebrated of all the wartime Service Orchestras. Fondly known as the Squadronaires it was fronted by Jimmy Miller who came from Aberdeen and included in its ranks fellow Scots, Tommy McQuater and Archie Craig on trumpets, George Chisholm on trombone, Andy McDevitt on saxophone and clarinet, plus Jock Cummings on drums.
Following the end of the war it was the enterprise and vision of a returning prisoner of war that led to the formation in Edinburgh of the
Tommy Sampson Orchestra.
Making its debut at the Eldorado Ballroom in Leith in January 1947, this it is claimed became one of Britain’s greatest big band assemblies.
I can vouch for that having heard them in action.
Featuring exceptional arrangements the band was a powerhouse of energy and musicians who played with Tommy Sampson have continued throughout the years to praise the band’s avante-garde dynamic approach. Regrettably short lived due mainly financial problems, it disbanded at the end of 1949 without any of the recording companies having the foresight to register interest.
At this stage it was the Ted Heath Orchestra that was establishing its foothold on the big band scene and Ted lost no time in attracting many
ex-Samsonites over the border.
The Scottish exodus continued throughout the Trad days of the 50s. Edinburgh born Alex Welsh formed a Chicago-style unit, successfully taking on the might of Chris Barber, Humph and the Kenny Ball’s of that period. Likewise other Scots who emigrated to so called greener pastures, Sandy Brown, Al Fairweather and Stan Greig all come to mind.
It has been said that ‘it taks a lang spoon to sup wi a Fifer’, well, Mercer Ellington eventually did just that when he signed up Joe Temperley (ex The Tommy Sampson Orchestra) to join the Ellington saxophone section in the States.
On the home front dance halls may have been closing but jazz clubs were on the ascendancy as was the interest and popularity of Trad-jazz. The Clyde Valley Stompers were originally fronted by Jim McHarg and when he emigrated, trombonist Ian Menzies became leader. The South West of Scotland jazz group had early success both locally and over the border. It was not surprising that in 1956 Ian Menzies was responsible for the band turning professional.
The Clyde Valley Stompers were fast becoming a National foundation in the Trad world, a name and force to be reckoned with. Touring extensively and recording for the Decca label, broadcasting and television performances followed, promoting their popularity. The Stompers played an active part on the British tours of Louis Armstrong, Sydney Bechet and Kid Oliver’s Original Creole Band.
In the early 60s their success continued with featured appearances alongside Blues Legend Big Bill Broonzy and recordings were made with another Scottish export Lonnie Donegan.
Ultimately the pressures of incessant touring and the resultant stress heralded the death-knell of what had become one of Scotland’s most celebrated and distinguished Traditional Jazz Bands.
So strong was the bond of the Clyde Valley Stompers and their affinity for the music they all shared, that in 1982/83, get-together sessions were arranged, and recordings made at the Kirkland Park Studios, Strathaven, Scotland.
Twenty tracks, a listening time of some 74 minutes is a must for aficionados, devotees and enthusiasts of good Trad-jazz. In fact, it has been said that you don’t have to be a jazz fan to enjoy the Clyde Valley Stompers! They play a varied selection of happy-style music alongside traditional and even spiritual renditions of well known standard tunes. The ‘The Reunion Sessions’ are no exception and the band features a front line of Ian Menzies leading on trombone, the adept clarinet playing of Forrie Cairns and the dynamic trumpet of Malcolm Higgins whose Armstrong style vocals are in keeping with the event. They are ably backed by John Cairns on piano, Norrie Brown on banjo, Lindsay Cooper on bass with Tony McLennan and Billy Law sharing the drum chair. The vocal talent of Mary McGowan is clearly evident on ‘ The Saints Go Marching In’ track, as is the inimitable Fionna Duncan on numerous numbers as diverse as the spiritual ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ and the raucous ‘Salty Dog Blues’. ‘Scotland The Brave’, ‘Fidgety Feet’, ‘Tiger Rag’, ‘ My Mother’s Eyes’, ‘At The Jazz Band Ball’ are amongst the twenty numbers featured on this recording.
This is a compact disc that will do more than set you ‘foot tapping’ and, most likely it will get you up shimmying a little "like my Sister Kate".
Available from High Street record stores including HMV or direct from www.scotdisc.co.uk
A. J. Booth
Aspen Lodge Finzean
By Banchory, Aberdeenshire
Scotland AB31 6NU